How to prepare for an on camera interview

I have conducted an 'on the couch' style interview for the past year now and many of my guests ask me the best way they should prepare for such an event. Before anything else, give yourself a big pat on the back if you have been asked to appear on TV to present yourself as the authority in your field. Well done!

Your outfit

You may have a favourite striped or checkered shirt that you want to wear, well on TV this is going to distract attention from what you’re saying. Some patterns have this weird psychedelic images surround the TV. You can never go wrong with dark colours. Avoid brand names on hats or T's, you may be asked to change your shirt.

As part of your outfit, if your are asked if you would like makeup, always say yes (you too men) those bright lights can reflect awfully on some large foreheads (like mine). If you want to apply your own makeup, just ensure it has no sunscreen in the mix, this will make your face even shinier.​

Keep accessories to a minimum. Women, apply makeup that will enhance your features (slightly bolder than you might wear day-to-day) and darker lipstick. Your goal is to look good on screen without going overboard or detracting from your message.

Wear solid colors with an emphasis on blues and browns. Avoid white shirts, plaids and checkered patterns. Also, bring along a backup outfit just in case you spill your coffee or sweat stains appear.

Send your questions to the interviewer

Just about every statement you make, you should be able to turn them into a question. For example, this whole post could be easily turned into a wonderful interview by simply asking questions for the interviewee to answer. This will also guide the interview toward familiar waters and keep you from umming and arrrrhing while you think of a response.

Watch your posture

You’ll likely be a little nervous during your interview, but strive not to let it show. Sit up straight, maintain eye contact with your interviewer and avoid glancing off set. Keep your hand gestures to a minimum. Keep them on your lap if they tend to wander on their own, and SMILE.

I also ask the guests with whom I am about to interview to have a LISTENING FACE. There is nothing worse than a gormless ​mouth breathing schlump sitting there waiting for their next question. Have a face that looks interested.

When sitting during an interview, lean forward around 20 degrees when you talk to open up your diaphragm, increase your air supply, prevent you from slumping and make you look engaged in the discussion. Do not let your back touch the back of your chair.

Have a face that looks interested

Give explanation to your answers

A good interviewer asks great questions that receive a great response. There will be times that I may ask a closed ended question like "When did you start this journey of self discovery?" Now you may very well answer "4 years ago" and that would be correct but you could add a short story to compliment your answer.

Be careful though not to go overboard and hijack the interview with a 20 minute blow by blow description of your story. Don't forget, it is a two way conversation, not a speech.​

Forget about the camera and the audience

If the idea of having a camera shoved in your face or having people watch you on television sends you into paralysis, don’t think about it (easier said than done, right?). Instead, focus on the fact that this interview is all about you and the person interviewing you. You’ll feel less pressure to perform well if you ignore the rest.

When face-to-face with an interviewer, focus on the the person asking the questions and not on the camera. If you are at a remote location (as is frequently the case on 60 minutes or Nightline) maintain eye contact with the camera lens at all times. When pausing to think, look down - not up. You don't want viewers to think you're rolling your eyes.

Have fun

I always like to talk about everyday events that make the person I am about to interview relax just before they go on, or surprise them with some research I have uncovered that will make them laugh or at the least smile. Don't be too serious, relax and enjoy the moment

Being on TV under lights, wearing makeup and looking into a camera is an artificial environment and is stressful. You have seconds to sell your story. Practice in your bathroom mirror with a stopwatch. Or use a video camera and have someone you trust critique your delivery. This sort of preparation will enable you to exude calm cool confidence during the actual interview and prevents a case of the "ums."

Here are some of my favourite quick tips

A layer of pancake makeup will prevent the glistening that hot TV lights can produce. Guys usually cringe at the thought of makeup, but if it's good enough for the leader of the free world, it's good enough for you.

You have key messages prepared so use them. Acknowledge any questions you're asked, but always bridge back to your key messages during an interview. Also, reiterate those messages if you're asked to provide a sound check or give a closing thought.

Turn your mobile phone off, lose the gum, remove coins from pockets, don't hold a pen and ask me to turn off the TV set by the camera so you're not tempted to see how you look during the interview. Also, avoid chairs that swivel and rock. They are too tempting, especially when you get nervous.

Anything can happen in TV news, so be prepared and try to accommodate any unexpected changes. Don't be phased if an in-studio interview changes to a satellite hookup or an interview that was supposed to be taped suddenly is carried live. Flexibility is a must.

Smile! - Television observes everything, especially posture, energy and facial expression. Watch the delivery of TV news anchors and you'll see how much they accentuate what they say with unspoken cues. If possible, take a brisk walk before going on camera to get your blood flowing and wake yourself up.

Finally, Journalists tell stories for a living. You can help them do their job by using examples, anecdotes and graphics. Telling stories also helps break your conversation into soundbites.


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About the Author

As The Presentation Coach, Gerald has over 20 remarkable years as a professional speaker, engaging audiences with humour, controversy and plenty of ideas. Gerald has spoken to a wide variety of groups, including business, medical, academic, association, professional and corporate audiences. He’s an engaging, thought provoking speaker and storyteller. Gerald is energetic and professional. He knows how to motivate the the crowd, Quality isn’t expensive..it’s priceless!